SANTA FE, N.M. (KRQE) – Following protests across the nation and New Mexico over the death of Minneapolis man George Floyd, Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham is calling on the state to fight racism head-on.

With a panel of New Mexico’s black leaders Thursday, the Governor announced the launch of a new roundtable initiative called the “Advisory Council for Racial Justice” to look at systemic racism in the state. According to the Governor’s Office, the council will “monitor state institutions and hold them accountable for ending systemic racism and assuring that all persons receive fair and equal treatment and opportunities.”

“We’re seizing on this moment, we should, we will, we must, we shall and we are going to include many others and create that platform,” said Gov. Lujan Grisham.

Lujan Grisham spoke to a few specific policies that she wants to see reform efforts focus on, including policies related to police. The governor highlighted de-escalation training for police recruits, saying that training should be a core requirement in order to graduate and be a police officer in New Mexico. She also expressed concern over the secrecy of police disciplinary records and having lawmakers consider changes surrounding the policy.

“This is also a call to be honest about radicalized and gendered police brutality,” said Alexandria Taylor. “We want to be making more investments in our communities services, in healthcare, in education and jobs than we are in policing for our communities.”

The governor’s panel of African American leaders included Democrat State Representative Sheryl Williams Stapleton, Rev. Donna Maria Davis of Grant Chapel A.M.E. Church and Alexandria Taylor of the New Mexico Coalition of Sexual Assault Programs, all of whom will have a role on the advisory council.

“We can’t understand the shoes that other people walk in until we hear their story, and we have to come to the table because if we don’t come to the table, in the next few weeks in the few months, or the next year or so, we will see the same thing happening again,” said Rev. Donna Maria Davis.

Each panel member gave impassioned testimony Tuesday, with many touching on what it’s like to live in fear for their lives because of their race.

“There are some individuals that have authority, they’re sworn to uphold the rights of others but because the ingrained system they were brought up under to think that I’m better than that person because that person is black; they can take advantage of the situation and it is time that we stop,” said Rep. Sheryl Williams Stapleton (D-Albuquerque).

“Here we are in this moment in where the radicalized threat against our bodies and our lives may actually seem greater than the risk of COVID 19 and knowing that the disproportionate impact affects black and indigenous communities of COVID-19, this should alarm all of us,” Taylor said.

The governor’s office says it’s still finalizing membership on the council. Lujan Grisham also committed to having “younger voices” as part of the council’s makeup.

“In a state like New Mexico, where including myself, as a leader, a proud leader of a diverse and multi-cultural state, we have a tenancy to wrap in ourselves in that particular cloak and pretend sometimes that we don’t have the kind of inequalities and institutional racism and hatred that in fact exists,” Lujan Grisham said.

The governor didn’t say Thursday how often she’ll convene the council, but participants Thursday said this has to be a regular conversation. Lujan Grisham also commended peaceful protests across New Mexico, saying despite the pandemic and health risk associated with mass gatherings, it’s important for protesters to seize the moment.

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